AFI eyeing more Worlds spots at sixth leg of Indian Grand Prix

All in the hope of either securing a few more spots at the upcoming World Championships or giving the ones already there – like the men’s 4x400m relay side – a chance to improve its performance and bolster its rankings.

FILE PHOTO: Arpinder Singh was sweating it out at Patiala on Wednesday, running endless loops on the jump track trying to get his speed, technique and take-off in perfect sync under the watchful eyes of coach Antony Yaich.

FILE PHOTO: Arpinder Singh was sweating it out at Patiala on Wednesday, running endless loops on the jump track trying to get his speed, technique and take-off in perfect sync under the watchful eyes of coach Antony Yaich.   -  Special Arrangement

The sixth leg of the Indian Grand Prix has already seen a number of changes. The venue has been shifted from Chennai to Delhi to here, citing weather and logistics. The number of events too have seen an increase – from seven to 11 in men including sprint events and from four to eight among women.

All in the hope of either securing a few more spots at the upcoming World Championships or giving the ones already there – like the men’s 4x400m relay side – a chance to improve its performance and bolster its rankings.

On Thursday, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) would be hoping its objectives are finally met. It won’t be easy though.

On Wednesday evening, the National Institute of Sports had a laidback feel. Apart from a bunch of javelin throwers, including Davinder Singh Kang, and Steeplechase athlete Sudha Singh, triple jumper Arpinder Singh was the only one sweating it out, running endless loops on the jump track trying to get his speed, technique and take-off in perfect sync under the watchful eyes of coach Antony Yaich. The weather, sultry after a sudden downpour earlier in the day, was a relief though.

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The federation had hoped for the same at the Lucknow Inter-State Championships last week but things didn’t go according to plan with the number of qualified individual entries remaining at 17 (Jinson Johnson has since made the cut, taking the number to 18). The only one to get the qualifying mark was quartermiler Anjali Devi, who had already made the cut last year. Disappointing performances, farcical anti-doping measures and less than satisfactory marks marked the Inter-State meet.

Thursday’s IGP would be the last opportunity for those still missing to get their act together. The federation has already marked out its hopefuls from the event. Besides Arpinder – who missed the qualifying by 12 centimetres in Lucknow – the AFI has hopes from Dutee Chand in 100m and Archana Suseendran in 200 besides securing yet another spot in javelin to make up for Neeraj Chopra's likely absence with rehabilitation.

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Interestingly, some who have already qualified would be trying for a second shot including Sudha in steeplechase, having qualified in marathon. But the spotlight would definitely be on the men’s 4x400m squad.

After a farcical run in Lucknow that saw all three AFI teams disqualified or not finishing, barely managing to hold on to its 16th spot in rankings and injuries to Dharun and Alex Antony, the AFI would be under pressure to not just ensure a better timing from its star medal hope but also unsure of its final composition when the selection committee meets to pick the Doha side on September 9. Thursday’s outing would be keenly watched.

Thursday’s events:

Men: 100m, 200m, 400m, 1500m, 3000mSC, 4x400m relay, long jump, triple jump, pole vault, javelin throw, shot put.

Women: 100m, 200m, 400m, 1500m, 3000mSC, long jump, javelin throw, shot put